Getting ahead

Leading Young Professionals

By Philippa Martin-King

The first IEC Young Professionals’ workshop was held during the IEC General Meeting in Seattle, US. Participants were selected by IEC National Committees from a pool of promising young expert engineers, technicians and managers from their national industries and organizations. The aim was to increase the involvement of young professionals in the IEC and to engage them in shaping the future of international electrotechnical standardization and conformity assessment.

Young Professionals 2010 during workshop The 2010 Young Professionals during the workshop in Seattle

The Young Professionals’ Programme increases participation by young people in their twenties and thirties in international standardization. It provides participants with possibilities to network with their peers from all  over the world as well as opportunities for them to express their opinion and help shape the future of global standardization and conformity assessment. The programme aims to develop greater awareness of IEC work and the benefits of international standardization while ensuring the future of technology transfer.

To spread their message and be the voice of the programme, the Young Professionals nominated three participants as Leaders of the programme. We have interviewed them to gather what they took away from Seattle and how they plan to work with the other Young Professionals, so as to shape the future of the programme:

German researcher Janette Kothe

Janette Kothe is an academic who, after completing her Master’s degree in micromechatronics and  sensor technology, started a PhD in optical biosensors for industrial applications. Currently, she is carrying out her research in the solid states electronics laboratory at the Technical University of Dresden in Germany.

Kothe explains that because the field of optics and optical biosensors is relatively new and undeveloped, it has had little actual directly related standardization involvement. However, five years of being a student representative with VDE, the German Association for Electrical, Electronic & Information Technologies, which, with its 35 000 representatives, extends well beyond the German NC (National Committee) to include many German scientific groups with some 8 000 electrical engineering student members, has provided her with a strong connection with and awareness of the benefit of standards, if not of the standardization process itself.

The starting point of that ultimate point began with the first Young Professionals’ Programme event which was held at the IEC GM (General Meeting) in Seattle. “We arrived in Seattle with no real idea of what was in store for us”, says Kothe. Standardization is a hidden world. Most people don’t know about the standards making process, so it was really interesting to witness it, especially on an international basis.

“People like me”, says Kothe, “who are carrying out research have to be aware of standards. They’re part of the real world and have significant importance when it comes to security and so on. As a result, we need to be careful in our development so as not to develop new rules, but use standardization knowledge from the beginning and orient ourselves accordingly. When we have the opportunity, we should develop standards right from the beginning.

“In Seattle, we got to know about the standardization process, saw the people working on the standards and taking the decisions. We all know about standards, but few of us actually know how they come about. We were able to see the problems, the process and witness also how consortia with their de facto standards fit in the picture. We realized too that there was a generation gap between the participants in the Young Professionals’ Programme and the experts that are involved in the standardization process. The tagline for the programme is ‘Go ahead, Get ahead’. During the Seattle meetings we all felt we would like to be more involved.”

“We would now like to take part in TC (technical committee) work. We need more commitment from the NCs to set up support programmes for young professionals and give us further opportunity to work in standardization.”

“I have spoken with nearly every one of the participants in the programme since we met and our idea is that we can establish a method for virtual contact throughout the year so that we can discuss current issues and keep the work going at distance.”

Canadian entrepreneur, Stephanie McLarty

Stephanie McLarty is President of REfficient Inc., a Canadian professional services company that helps organizations manage technology turnover. She has been a member of IEC TC 111: Environmental standardization for electrical and electronic products and systems, since 2008, where she is part of PT (Project Team) 62635: End of life recyclability calculation for electrotechnical equipment, and PT 62650: Communication formats on recycling for electrotechnical equipment between manufacturers and recyclers, concerning end-of-life information exchange and recyclability rate.

McLarty is a woman entrepreneur whose work involves technology turnover in companies. That consists of removal of old equipment, costing or redeployment internally of technology, or resale, donation or recycling of electrotechnical devices.

McLarty got involved in the IEC and the world of standardization because she felt it would be useful from a business perspective. “Being part of the standardization process and particularly in my case, IEC TC 111, allows me to network with professionals around the world and to have a sense of what others are doing elsewhere. That’s a big value that you can feed back to your customers and let them know what’s happening elsewhere as far as use of recycling technology is concerned.”

“Being part of something on a global level means you know who to call. It’s also a way of showing our customers that we’re involved fully. It provides us with credentials and them with the reassurance that we are totally informed. Although we don’t really apply IEC standards internally, they’re complementary to what we do and as a company, we could, in future, contribute to the world of sustainability and standardization when it comes to manners of reporting on electronics reuse and waste diversion.”

McLarty talks of the advantages of attending the Young Professionals’ Programme in Seattle. “It gave me the broader outlook in understanding the IEC and the importance of standards. That was a great takeaway. It was exciting and sparked my interest in considering other opportunities and the more fundamental aspects of why standards matter.”

“When you talk with companies, you think of the IEC. Anything we can do to foster the community is important. We do need to promote the benefits of standardization and work.”

She was particularly impressed by a particular figure she learnt. “You know that 30 % of global trade is affected by the IEC? That’s most impressive. It represents a lot of potential and a great opportunity to grow the IEC.”

Mexican household safety expert Juan Rosales

A year before he graduated in Industrial Engineering in 2004, Juan became involved with ANCE, the Mexican National Standards Body where he worked for five years as Chief of Standards for Household and Similar Appliances and as Technical Secretary of the Mexican technical committee 61. He was responsible for the publication of over 50 national standards on appliances, tools, batteries and toys which Mexico adopted from the IEC International Standards.

Since 2008 he has been working with MABE/GE, one of the leading appliance manufacturers in America, as Leader of Testing and Approvals, responsible for the validation of laundry equipment projects regarding the fields of safety, energy, performance and reliability. Rosales is also an industry representative in the Mexican standards committee and a Technical Expert for the Mexican Accreditation body. At present, he is completing a Master’s degree in administrative engineering.

Part of his job is that of letting standards work to open markets for electrical appliances under an equal basis of quality, safety and environmental aspects. “After some years”, he says, “I have come to realize that standards also open doors and perspectives to me as an engineer. Working with standards has given me the opportunity to improve my skills as an engineer. It has also given me the chance to meet many people from all over the world and visit places that I had never thought of. Standards have helped me see how the global economy moves around the world and how rules and standards are important to make markets, technology and society grow.”

Stimulation from the Young Professionals’ Programme

“There are many dimensions I could mention. I’m glad to be able to contribute to society by developing rules that provide us with a greater range of more eco-friendly, safer and better performance electrical products.

“As part of industry I’m pleased to be working towards generating fair trade which ultimately will help provide quality products and perhaps to contribute to the technical and economic development of my country. “On a personal level, working in standardization is a great opportunity to grow up as a professional, and become a reference as far as what a young Mexican guy can do with a little bit of inspiration and consistency in sticking to his life’s objectives!”

Leading the programme with objectives

“My first objective is to contribute to growing the programme successfully. Rosales continues. “Being one of the first generation leaders is a big responsibility because I know that the future of this programme will be based on the results we are able to provide. I would like also to open doors for next IEC Young Professionals. It’s a unique opportunity to make friends and network, a way of finding information that is necessary in our daily life.”

“Standards open doors not only for products and services, but also for professionals. Obtaining a background as a regulator working with IEC International Standards in my country has given me the opportunity to get a better understanding of the global economy, to help develop my company with a clear view of what is right or wrong when we develop a new product and to anticipate certain situations that could affect users.

“My daily life is to verify that laundry equipment designed and manufactured for my company meets all applicable regulations so that it can move freely around the world on the basis of safety, performance, energy consumption and so on. I’m convinced”, says Rosales, “that would not be possible if IEC standards were not part of my daily life.”

You can find interviews with Young Professionals on YouTube:

Janette Kothe Janette Kothe (Germany)
Stephanie McLarty Stephanie McLarty (Canada)
Juan Rosales Juan Rosales (Mexico)